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Cabot Institute Director wins Lloyds Science of Risk Prize

Professor Paul Bates

Professor Paul Bates

Press release issued: 30 November 2012

Professor Paul Bates from the University of Bristol has won this year's Lloyd’s Science of Risk Prize in the category of Natural Hazards for his work on flood modelling. He is also co-author of the winning entry for the prize's other category, Climate Change.

Professor Bates won for his study describing a new set of equations for wide area, high-resolution flood modelling that overcame the limitations of previously developed schemes used by the insurance industry.  The research was described in a paper published in the Journal of Hydrology in 2010. 

This new method of flood modelling is both quicker and less costly to perform than previous models used by the industry.  It allows a 5m model to be run at the same cost as a 50m model based on the currently used approach.  At 5m scale, flood models can actually simulate flow around buildings in urban areas thereby allowing risk to be estimated at the individual property rather than post code level.

Professor Bates said: "Whilst at first reading our paper appears heavily theoretical, its implications are profound and immediate for insurance industry flood risk analysis.  The paper places in the public domain the blueprint for how to build a better flood inundation model in a way that is truly 'open source'."

Dr Richard Ward, CEO of Lloyds, said: "The judging panel comprising experts from academia and insurance felt Professor Bates's paper was very exciting and may lead to a steep change in flood modelling.  The judges praised the theoretical basis of the paper and appreciated that the research can be practically applied.  They were impressed with the open nature of the research and the fact it had already been used in practice."

The impact of the paper's publication is already being felt by the insurance industry with flood models based on the equations outlined in the paper under development by specialist companies and numerous academics developing their own research tools based on the principles outlined.  In time these methods will be used to inform risk analysis and pricing, and will stimulate research to improve flood modelling methods yet further.

Professor Bates was presented with a certificate and a cheque for £5,000 at the awards conference at Lloyd’s on Thursday 29 November.

Paper

Bates, P.D., Horritt, M.S. and Fewtrell, T.J. (2010). A simple inertial formulation of the shallow water equations for efficient two dimensional flood inundation modelling.  Journal of Hydrology, 387, 33-45. (10.1016/j.jhydrol.2010.03.027).

Cabot Institute

The Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol carries out fundamental and responsive research on risks and uncertainties in a changing environment.  Our interests include natural hazards, food and energy security, resilience and governance, and human impacts on the environment. Our research fuses rigorous statistical and numerical modelling with a deep understanding of interconnected social, environmental and engineered systems – past, present and future. We seek to engage wider society – listening to, exploring with, and challenging our stakeholders to develop a shared response to twenty-first century challenges.